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Another DIY Vacuum Former
by cmonaco3 on June 6, 2013
Table of Contents
Another DIY Vacuum Former . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Intro: Another DIY Vacuum Former . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Step 1: Design and Supplies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Step 2: Cut The Wood . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Step 3: Assemble the Base . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Step 4: Cut the Two Frames . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Step 5: Add Final Touches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Step 6: Using the Vacuum Former . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Related Instructables . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
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Comments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
http://www.instructables.com/id/Another-DIY-Vacuum-Former/
Author:cmonaco3 Christopher Monaco
A materials scientist gone electrical engineer my hobbies include experimenting with electronics and making fun and interesting things. I rarely know what I'm
doing when I start a project, but learning new skills is what it's all about.
Intro: Another DIY Vacuum Former
I know I'm certainly not the first person to make their own vacuum forming table, and I know I won't be the last. But since I am making one I thought I would share it
anyway.
This is a pretty standard design. I have a wooden frame to hold the material to be vacuum formed, and a wooden box with holes on the top to act as the vacuum forming
bed. It was cheap to build and works really well.
Image Notes
1. Ok, Ok. I know what you're thinking, "Styrofoam!?" Yeah, I know, pretty obvious
but I should've known it wouldn't have worked.
Step 1:Design and Supplies
My goal was to create a simple and cheap vacuum former. I knew the sheets of material I would be forming would be 12in x 12in and so I would design the vacuum
former around that . I came up with this design that follows similarly to many other DIY vacuum formers out there.
Design
A base board would have a hole in it for a household vacuum hose. A small frame would be built in the center of that measuring 11in x 11in. It would be glued to the base
and then later sealed with caulk. A square section of pegboard would be glued to the top of that frame and act as the bed for the vacuum former. Separately, two frames
made of MDF would sandwich the material to be vacuum formed and those would be held together with bolts. Some sort of rubber tape would run around the perimeter of
the frame to form a vacuum seal. This frame with the material in it would go into the oven to heat the plastic and then be placed over the bed to form the part.
Parts
I bought the following parts from Home Depot for this project:
1x2-8ft Strip: $0.98
White Peg Board Panel: $8.45
3/8"-16 Wingnut (3 bags): $3.54
Hex Bolt, 3/8x2-1/2 (8x): $2.96
Foam Tape: $5.67
1/2" 2'x4' MDF Project Panel: $9.73
The following are extra parts that I used to make the table a little more user friendly and had lying around:
1x4-8ft Common Board: $4.12
http://www.instructables.com/id/Another-DIY-Vacuum-Former/
3/4 PVC Pipe: $1.23
3/4 90 PVC Elbow: ~$1
The total cost before tax of this vacuum form system is about $38.
Tools
You'll need basic wood working tools for this one: a miter saw, circular saw, and a power drill. Wood glue is a must and caulking is optional but recommended. I found a
Dremel was just fine to do the job of cutting the center out of the frames, but any method you prefer will work too. You may also want some type of square to make sure
those corners are 90 degrees.
Image Notes
1. The frames are actually just singe pieces with a square cut out.
Image Notes
1. Obviously not MDF, but after building this I realized that it would have been
better to use MDF for the entire thing.
http://www.instructables.com/id/Another-DIY-Vacuum-Former/
Image Notes
1. There's the MDF.
Step 2:Cut The Wood
For the table you'll need to cut the following to size:
1x2 Strip cut into 4 pieces with 45 miter joints on either side, 11in on the longest side
Pegboard cut to an 11inx11in panel
MDF cut into 3 18inx18in sheets, one will be used for the base, the other two for the frames
See the drawings for a visual.
Image Notes
1. 1x2
Image Notes
1. This is a great tool: the Rigid JobMax.
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Image Notes
1. Should be MDF
2. Chalk lines help determine the center for later.
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Image Notes
1. Ignore these. They're from an older design and won't be used except at legs
later.
Step 3:Assemble the Base
Building the base is straightforward- the hardest part being centering the 1x2 frame on the base board. I recommend marking the center of the base board with chalk or a
marker to aid in centering the frame and the hole for the hose.
I used a large square with inch markings on it help both center the frame and the make sure it was square. Once satisfied with the placement, glue the 2x1 frame pieces
in place and allow the glue to dry. While drying the center hole can be drilled. Since I was using PVC pipe I found a hole saw of that size and used it to cut the hole. At
this point caulking can be applied to fill any gaps that may cause air leaks.
Once any caulking is dried, place glue all the around the 1x2 frame. A continuous line of glue will help prevent any unwanted air gaps as caulking around the pegboard
would be difficult. Finally, place the pegboard on the frame and allow the glue to dry.
Image Notes
1. This is where the square comes in.
Image Notes
1. I used some small finish nails to better hold the wood in place while the glue
dries. This is optional.
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Image Notes
1. 1" hole will fit the small piece of PVC pipe that is sticking out of the elbow.
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Step 4:Cut the Two Frames
Now take the other two 18inx18in MDF panels an cut a square out of the center. The square should be around 11inx11in but note that it may need to be slightly larger in
order to fit around the 1x2 frame on the base. I used a Dremel for this, but any method will do. After the center squares are cut out I stacked the two panels on top of each
other and drilled holes around the perimeter. The holes are about 1in off the outside edge and 5in off of each side. See the drawing for a visual.
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http://www.instructables.com/id/Another-DIY-Vacuum-Former/
Step 5:Add Final Touches
Here are some extra steps I took to make the unit a little more user friendly. These are optional and you could just hook up your vacuum's hose directly to the base if you
want.
The first modification was to add the plumbing. I coated the short piece of PVC pipe with adhesive/caulking and placed it in the hole on the bottom of the base. I then put
another piece of PVC pipe that went to the outside of the base so I could easily connect the vacuum.
Next I added some legs to raise the platform a little bit and clear the PVC pipe. These are just scrap wood I had that I glued to the base board.
Lastly, I put some foam rubber weather stripping around the perimeter of the 1x2 frame for some extra sealing.
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Image Notes
1. EDPM Rubber Weatherseal
Step 6:Using the Vacuum Former
I built this vacuum former in order to make an enclosure for another project I'm working on. That's what you see in the images.
I sourced my ABS plastic from Widget Works Unlimited . I found that they had very reasonable prices on material meant for vacuum forming. There's also a video on their
product page that will show you essentially the same thing that I will here.
First, sandwich the material to be formed between the two MDF frames. I found it easiest to loosen all the nuts but only remove two bolts on the same side and slide the
material in. Tight down all the nuts. Place the base somewhere close to the oven and connect your vacuum. Any vacuum will do. Place your mold on top of the peg
board. Heat your oven and then load the entire frame assembly into your oven.
Ok, I know what you're thinking: "I'm not going to put that in my oven, it'll get ruined!" And believe me my parents weren't thrilled about it at first either, but
as long as you keep the temperature set to the forming point of the material and use materials that don't tend to outgas at low temperatures you should be
fine.
http://www.instructables.com/id/Another-DIY-Vacuum-Former/
For the ABS I used, the forming temperature was 325-350F, I went with 340F. After a few minutes (depending on the thickness) you'll see the material start to sag in the
frame. That's how you'll know it's ready to be formed. Turn on the vacuum and quickly move the frame assembly from the oven to the vacuum table and slide it down
over the part. Be sure to use oven mits, it'll be hot! The vacuum should suck the material close to the mold and the pegboard. Wait about 30 seconds or until your
material hardens and then remove the vacuum.
If you're part didn't quite form right you may not have heated the material long enough or your part may be too tall for the material to stretch around. It took me a couple of
tried to get it right. Also, depending on the intricacies of your mold you may need to prep it a certain way. A quick web search should return all the information you should
need. I'm not an expert and my only experience is making simple parts.
Image Notes
1. This tag has all the information pertinent to using this material. Most important,
its forming temperature of 325-350F.
Image Notes
1. Should have cleaned this before posting pictures online. lol
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Image Notes
1. Now just to cut these out.
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Comments
14 comments Add Comment
Mindmapper1 says: Jun 28, 2013. 4:11 AM REPLY
Cool! really good and clear.
Novali says: Jun 27, 2013. 9:46 AM REPLY
this is great!
I want to use this in a classroom situation to teach kids about vacuum forming, No oven in my classroom so I'll try scaling it down to toaster oven size. Do
you think a small hand held dustbuster type thing would work?
Mindmapper1 says: Jun 28, 2013. 4:09 AM REPLY
Iv done this on a small scale with a hot air gun, works fine.
cmonaco3 says: Jun 27, 2013. 8:10 PM REPLY
Thanks, I'm glad you like it. Check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maH5Ech0wK8 The person in it made box to heat the plastic with a
space heater; maybe something like that could help you out. I'm not sure about the vacuum, you may just have to try it out.
RyErickson11 says: Jun 27, 2013. 7:57 AM REPLY
If the material doesn't completely wrap around the mold or doesn't follow all the contours, try drilling some holes in key or detailed locations that would aid
the vaccum to suck the material to the mold. Using a sort of wax to coatr the mold also helps the material release the mold when completed. It also gives a
bit of life to the mold as well. This would make it possible to make more detailed/complex forms. Just a few tips! Great project.
cmonaco3 says: Jun 27, 2013. 8:01 PM REPLY
Thanks for the tips!
jalleninaustin says: Jun 27, 2013. 10:35 AM REPLY
Great looking box. Easy to follow using your diagram. And oh so timely, as I was just starting to look to make one this weekend.
BTW OP, nice shirt. PKS 1997 Sigma Chapter.
aspen42 says: Jun 26, 2013. 9:13 AM REPLY
When you update will you please also show us what you are using for the heat source and anything we need to know about that? Thanks!
bertus52x11 says: Jun 26, 2013. 3:39 AM REPLY
Ver well and clear Instructable! Just two questions: what kind of vacuum pump do you use and at which pressure do you operate it?
cmonaco3 says: Jun 26, 2013. 7:10 AM REPLY
Thanks! I'll be updating the instructable this evening with a step detailing the how to actually use the former, but to answer your question in the mean
time: a household upright vacuum cleaner and I have no idea. haha
SlickSqueegie says: Jun 26, 2013. 6:03 AM REPLY
I would love to know what you use to create the vacuum...
cmonaco3 says: Jun 26, 2013. 7:09 AM REPLY
I actually realized this morning that I left out the step about actually operating the thing. I'll be updating it today with instructions and pictures on the actual
use of the vacuum former. But to answer your question any household vacuum should work. I'm just using an old upright vacuum cleaner I had at home.
kristell1119 says: Jun 26, 2013. 4:44 AM REPLY
great instructable! easy to fallow and great direction. no mumbo jumbo. good job
TheExterminatingDalek says: Jun 26, 2013. 1:28 AM REPLY
Lovely tidy instructable, looks like just the thing I'm looking for to finish a project I'm working on, thanks!